Trains For America

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NW Digest takes down Amtrak Pioneer

From time to time, TFA comes across a piece of mainstream media misinformation that is so poorly conceived it begs to be mocked. Let me help out. The opinion piece is carried in NW Digest.

It’s written by a gentleman named “Adam.” That’s all the identification available, but maybe I am missing something. This particular columnist seems to have recently begun drinking the mystical waters of neo-conservatism and is boldly stating thoughts and asking questions never imagined over 10,000 years of recorded history.

But let’s give Adam a break. He poses some appropriate questions and concedes the utility of decent transportation, especially in an area where some airlines have been cutting service. Boy, Adam, you’ve really got a good handle on transportation policy, I’ll say.

Astute followers of rail passenger news will immediately discover that Adam does not have a clue as to the routing of the Pioneer, but he’s aware of the connection down to Salt Lake City. Adam and I agree that Salt Lake City’s centrality to the Mormon church is something that would attract passengers.

Being inebriated with the wisdom of hard core fiscal reality, Adam strongly implies that the Pioneer came off because it was unprofitable. So, there Bad train, Pioneer! You lose money! Bad train!

This does bring up a point worth considering. Why the heck did the Pioneer go off? I have never heard an acceptable explanation and lack of support from local communities is certainly not one of the reasons. Boise owns the tracks into town.

Idaho, like Montana and North Dakota, really needs rail transportation in winter weather. It is an important connection when highways are dangerous (and they are very much so in parts of Idaho).

The article says that Amtrak delays make it unsuitable for the 21st century and that is a darned good point. Perhaps a well-informed editorialist might have taken some time to learn about “high performance rail” and the new federal law on passenger train delays.

My favorite part of this charming piece of overly self-confident blather is the scolding contained in the final two paragraphs. I love nothing better than to be brought down a peg or two.

Beyond this, though, I think it’s time to come to an adult realization when it comes to government-funded railways. We don’t have the money as a nation to pay for this. It will put us nearly $2 trillion more in the red. We already have more than $44 trillion in unfunded liabilities on top of that.

It’s time for voters to stop falling for the promise of “free money” from Washington. This money to finance an Amtrak route or the Folly Trolley, that money will come out of the hide of the next generation of Americans.

Gee Dad, I never looked at it that way. I guess that’s why us kids have grown-ups around to straighten us out when we need it. Now, go take that belt to the Europeans and the Chinese because they have been wasting just about as much on high speed trains.

I think it will cost somewhat less than $44 trillion to restore the Pioneer, and how much does Adam think it will cost to expand highways. In Idaho, the cost per mile is out the roof.

My second favorite part of this article is the headline. Now, being somewhat involved in the newspaper business as a freelance columnist, I must testify that Adam probably did not write the headline. It reads: Steaming towards a fiscal trainwreck?

It must be a figure of speech. Surely they know that trains no longer use steam locomotives. Surely they know that, don’t they?

And you people down at the Mobile Press Register, you can thank your lucky freaking stars that I was too busy and too tired to discuss your equally lacking editorial on the Sunset.


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Amtrak adds daily Seattle-Vancouver, B. C train

The A. P. files the complete report. Start set for Aug. 19.

The Washington Department of Transportation says a second daily Amtrak Cascades train between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, will begin service next Wednesday. The train service is aimed at helping with traffic during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Paralympic Winter Games.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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August 2009